When Nvidia launched the 980M last October, it claimed that the laptop GPU could hit 75-80% of the performance of the desktop card. That was impressive compared to the mobile GPUs of a generation or two back, but not as impressive as what Nvidia’s done now: fit the entire, uncompromised desktop 980 GPU into gaming laptops. Starting early October with six laptops from MSI, Gigabyte, Asus and Clevo, the GTX 980 is making its way into laptops, with all 2048 CUDA cores intact. And yes, it’s overclockable.
To show off the full-on 980 doing its thing in laptops, Nvidia demoed several laptops side-by-side with desktop machines to compare benchmarks. In Shadow of Mordor, Tomb Raider, and a couple other benchmarks, the laptop system was able to turn in nearly identical scores—at worst, about 5% off what the desktop machine delivered. In those cases, it wasn’t even quite a fair fight, since a laptop CPU was up against a more powerful desktop CPU. Some of the laptops were actually equipped with desktop parts and delivered dead even performance. In one case, 3DMark actually turned in identical scores down to the point.
The GTX 980 will be able to deliver 7 Gbps of memory bandwidth compared to the 980M’s 5 Gbps. Whereas the mobile 980s previously only had 3 phase PSUs, the new cards will be outfitted with 4-8 phase power supplies, which will vary by laptop. Every system that ships with a 980 will have a custom-tuned fan curve to keep the card cool, but it’ll also ship with some sort of overclocking tool, like MSI Afterburner or Gigabyte’s OC Guru.
All of this performance requires the laptop be plugged into AC power, however. Without the extra juice from the wall socket, the 980 will deliver roughly equal performance to the 980M. Nvidia also told us that like with the 980M, there will be SLI configurations of the full-size 980 in laptops, too. That’s likely as much GPU muscle as you’re going to find in a laptop until sometime in 2016, when Nvidia has a new generation of cards to roll out.